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To gain insight into the neurophysiological mechanisms involved in Zen meditation, we evaluated the effects of focused attention (FA) on breathing movements in the lower abdomen (Tanden) in novices. We investigated hemodynamic changes in the prefrontal cortex (PFC), an attention-related brain region, using 24-channel near-infrared spectroscopy during a 20-minute session of FA on Tanden breathing in 15 healthy volunteers. We found that the level of oxygenated hemoglobin in the anterior PFC was significantly increased during FA on Tanden breathing, accompanied by a reduction in feelings of negative mood compared to before the meditation session. Electroencephalography (EEG) revealed increased alpha band activity and decreased theta band activity during and after FA on Tanden breathing. EEG changes were correlated with a significant increase in whole blood serotonin (5-HT) levels. These results suggest that activation of the anterior PFC and 5-HT system may be responsible for the improvement of negative mood and EEG signal changes observed during FA on Tanden breathing.

Zen meditation, a Buddhist practice centered on attentional and postural self-regulation, has been speculated to bring about beneficial long-term effects for the individual, ranging from stress reduction to improvement of cognitive function. In this study, we examined how the regular practice of meditation may affect the normal age-related decline of cerebral gray matter volume and attentional performance observed in healthy individuals. Voxel-based morphometry for MRI anatomical brain images and a computerized sustained attention task were employed in 13 regular practitioners of Zen meditation and 13 matched controls. While control subjects displayed the expected negative correlation of both gray matter volume and attentional performance with age, meditators did not show a significant correlation of either measure with age. The effect of meditation on gray matter volume was most prominent in the putamen, a structure strongly implicated in attentional processing. These findings suggest that the regular practice of meditation may have neuroprotective effects and reduce the cognitive decline associated with normal aging.

Buddhist meditation practice is perceived as non-relational. Yet a serious meditator develops an intimacy with herself that is an asset to being in a healthy relationship. In this essay, using composite profiles of patients, I pursue my interest in relationships and family life as a path to mental health and a home to enlightened experience. The intimacy of a relationship with oneself, with another and within family provides a container that may enable us to let go of our fixed sense of self.

The effects of Zen breath meditation were compared with those of relaxation on college adjustment. 75 undergraduates (aged 17–40 yrs) were divided into 3 groups using randomized matching on the basis of initial anxiety scores of the College Adjustment Scales. Ss also completed the Taylor Manifest Anxiety Scale. The 3 groups included, meditation, relaxation, and control. Training for the meditation and relaxation groups took place during a 1-hr instructional session with written instructions being distributed. After 6 wks anxiety and depression scored significantly decreased for the meditation and relaxation groups. Interpersonal problem scores also significantly decreased for the meditation group.

Contemplative practices, from meditation to Zen, are growing in popularity as methods to inspire physical and mental health. "Contemplative Practices in Action: Spirituality, Meditation, and Health" offers readers an introduction to these practices and the ways they can be used in the service of well being, wisdom, healing, and stress reduction. Bringing together various traditions from the East and West, this thought-provoking work summarizes the history of each practice, highlights classic and emerging research proving its power, and details how each practice is performed. Expert authors offer step-by-step approaches to practice methods including the 8-Point Program of Passage Meditation, Centering Prayer, mindful stress management, mantram meditation, energizing meditation, yoga, and Zen. Beneficial practices from Christian, Buddhist, Jewish, Hindu, and Islamic religions are also featured. Vignettes illustrate each of the practices, while the contributors explain how and why they are effective in facing challenges as varied as the loss of a partner or child, job loss, chronic pain or disease, or psychological disorders.

Illustrates certain commonalities between creative problem solving and Zen koan study. The koan is a type of question used in Zen meditation to help a disciple attain spiritual enlightenment. Both involve the following: (a) extinguishing prior interfering approaches, (b) satiation effects resulting from prolonged concentration, (c) unification of contradictory events, (d) more right than left brain hemispheric functioning, and (e) common psychological processes. Both situations share the stages of preparation, incubation, illumination, and evaluation. The stages of preparation and evaluation are seen as necessary but often overlooked aspects of the overall process. In the illumination stage, the experiences of solving a problem or a koan both have the qualities of suddenness and unexpectedness. The incubation stage involves a turning away from direct attacks on the problem; realization of the solution results from the occurrence of a seemingly unrelated event. (14 ref)

The dynamic interactions among physiological rhythms imbedded in the heart rate signal can give valuable insights into autonomic modulation in conditions of reduced outward attention. Therefore, in this study we analyzed the heart rate variability (HRV) in different levels of practice in Zen meditation (Zazen). Nineteen subjects with variable experience took part in this study. In four special cases we collected both HRV and respiration data. The time series were analyzed in frequency domain and also using the Continuous Wavelet Transform, which detects changes in the time domain and in the frequency domain simultaneously. The shifts in the respiratory modulation of heart rate, or respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA), reflect the different levels of practice among practitioners with variable experience in Zazen; in turn the modulation of the RSA may reflect changes in the breathing pattern as in the parasympathetic outflow related to the quality and focus of attention in each stage.
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Mindfulness-based approaches are increasingly employed as interventions for treating a variety of psychological, psychiatric and physical problems. Such approaches include ancient Buddhist mindfulness meditations such as Vipassana and Zen meditations, modern group-based standardized meditations, such as mindfulness-based stress reduction and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, and further psychological interventions, such as dialectical behavioral therapy and acceptance and commitment therapy. We review commonalities and differences of these interventions regarding philosophical background, main techniques, aims, outcomes, neurobiology and psychological mechanisms. In sum, the currently applied mindfulness-based interventions show large differences in the way mindfulness is conceptualized and practiced. The decision to consider such practices as unitary or as distinct phenomena will probably influence the direction of future research. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Clin Psychol 67:1-21, 2011.

In the rush of modern life, we tend to lose touch with the peace that is available in each moment. World-renowned Zen master, spiritual leader, and author Thich Nhat Hanh shows us how to make positive use of the very situations that usually pressure and antagonize us. For him a ringing telephone can be a signal to call us back to our true selves. Dirty dishes, red lights, and traffic jams are spiritual friends on the path to "mindfulness" -- the process of keeping our consciousness alive to our present experience and reality. The most profound satisfactions, the deepest feelings of joy and completeness lie as close at hand as our next aware breath and the smile we can form right now. Lucidly and beautifully written, "Peace Is Every Step" contains commentaries and meditations, personal anecdotes and stories from Nhat Hanh's experiences as a peace activist, teacher, and community leader. It begins where the reader already is -- in the kitchen, office, driving a car, walking a part -- and shows how deep meditative presence is available now. Nhat Hanh provides exercises to increase our awareness of our own body and mind through conscious breathing, which can bring immediate joy and peace. Nhat Hanh also shows how to be aware of relationships with others and of the world around us, its beauty and also its pollution and injustices. the deceptively simple practices of "Peace Is Every Step" encourage the reader to work for peace in the world as he or she continues to work on sustaining inner peace by turning the "mindless" into the mindFUL. "This book of illuminating reminders bid us to reorient the way we look at the world...toward a humanitarian perspective." -- "Publisher Weekly"

Objective: To provide a comprehensive review and evaluation of the psychological and neurophysiological literature pertaining to mindfulness meditation.Methods: A search for papers in English was undertaken using PsycINFO (from 1804 onward), MedLine (from 1966 onward) and the Cochrane Library with the following search terms: Vipassana, Mindfulness, Meditation, Zen, Insight, EEG, ERP, fMRI, neuroimaging and intervention. In addition, retrieved papers and reports known to the authors were also reviewed for additional relevant literature.Results: Mindfulness-based therapeutic interventions appear to be effective in the treatment of depression, anxiety, psychosis, borderline personality disorder and suicidal/self-harm behaviour. Mindfulness meditation per se is effective in reducing substance use and recidivism rates in incarcerated populations but has not been specifically investigated in populations with psychiatric disorders. Electroencephalography research suggests increased alpha, theta and beta activity in frontal and posterior regions, some gamma band effects, with theta activity strongly related to level of experience of meditation; however, these findings have not been consistent. The few neuroimaging studies that have been conducted suggest volumetric and functional change in key brain regions.Conclusions: Preliminary findings from treatment outcome studies provide support for the application of mindfulness-based interventions in the treatment of affective, anxiety and personality disorders. However, direct evidence for the effectiveness of mindfulness meditation per se in the treatment of psychiatric disorders is needed. Current neurophysiological and imaging research findings have identified neural changes in association with meditation and provide a potentially promising avenue for future research.

This project explores the integration of Zen Buddhist contemplative practices with practices entailed in academic, especially literary, reading. The mindfulness cultivated through Zen practices, and the ethical awareness that can spring from that mindfulness can inspire an academic reading practice that is both faithful to the particulars of a text’s form and sensitive to its ethical and political implications.

Background Mindfulness meditation (MM) practices constitute an important group of meditative practices that have received growing attention. The aim of the present paper was to systematically review current evidence on the neurobiological changes and clinical benefits related to MM practice in psychiatric disorders, in physical illnesses and in healthy subjects.